Walmart clearly leads the pack of superstore moneymakers, but the global enterprise is not alone. Kroeger, Target, and Walgreen show up next in a recent online list of 2012’s TOP 100 RETAILERS. Even Raley’s supermarket chain, headquartered in West Sacramento, California, is on this list–although at the bottom. It’s nearly impossible to avoid buying at giant shopping outlets nowadays. Yet most of us have heard about the unfair labor practices, the harm to local businesses, the offshore sweatshop suppliers, and so on. What are some ways to change these harmful practices so widespread in our global economy? There are good methods, bad methods, and super ugly methods to consider.
First and maybe best is when people inform themselves about mom-and-pop businesses within a five-mile radius of their homes or places of employment. This can mean asking friends and neighbors for recommendations. It can mean driving through the parking lots of strip malls to identify exactly what’s offered there. It can mean looking in the yellow pages–paper or online–under the category of items needed and wanted.
Another way to identify outlets that are alternative to superstores is by Googling to find particular items but being sure to include your location before the name of what you are shopping for, then noting the closest stores that show up on Google maps. For example, I had passed by a tiny local bible store many times, but it had not occurred to me to shop there. Luckily, when I wanted to find an Advent candle wreath for a Christmas gift, I put in my town name first and this little shop popped up on my Google screen.
It’s also good to find out about Farmer’s Markets in your area, especially as we move into springtime weather. Googling your location name in front of “farmers market” should produce a list of nearby locales for buying fresh produce, meats, and many other goods offered by independent local and regional businesses.
Comparing prices between a superstore and a small business can be useful. One way to start this may be to keep track of prices of the items you buy most often. Then when you get time, find out the price of those items at a small shop near you. If there is a minuscule difference, consider the extra few cents as your investment in supporting a robust local economy. If a significant difference in the prices shows up, perhaps discuss it with the small shop owner to see if they can run a special or make some other competitive adjustment. In addition, some small markets such as Sunrise Natural Foods in Northern California have discount days and offer up to 20 percent off on those days.
Finally, focusing in on specifically improving the business practices of superstores, picketing and other informational actions can raise awareness of problematic issues, as can posting to social media such as Facebook and Twitter. As long as these methods remain peaceful and courteous, no harm, no foul. Unfortunately, there have been some incidents of violence against superstores, such as bomb threats in summer 2012.* The sooner the giant retailers improve their practices, the sooner this danger will pass.
However, at times ugly methods have been used against global corporate giants, fictionally speaking. These murderous methods can help readers symbolically vent their frustrations or even energize themselves into taking some of the good sorts of actions noted above in the direction of improving superstores and along with them, our global economy.
* 88 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/30/bomb-threats-shut-midwest_n_1718907.html